They weren't morons. They'd picked some things up from little siblings and cousins and all the other children they hadn't been able to see grow up, from the wives and mother and aunties they'd lost. The memories were painful, sure, but they could bring them back if need be.
Besides, a baby is just another person, and as brutally as their lives had ended, they'd been around long enough to have a basic idea of how personhood worked. Eat, shit, sleep. Basic math.
But God, the little stinker was loud. It put the worst bees to shame. Within a day they all had a fresh level of respect for the women in their old lives, the ones who'd dealt with this stuff day in and day out while they got to get out of the house each day. Sure, the kid was cute, and sometimes fun, but he could quite literally give the dead headaches.
It's only for a little while, Daniel Robitaille told the others. Then he'll be where he belongs, and everyone will be fine. Although he forgot to mention the fact that everybody might have been driven clear up the wall by the time "a little while" was up.
Lucky for them that their little corner of the world existed in a space between realities, or the noise would have brought the whole block down on their heads. And nobody wanted to deal with Anne-Marie's wrath.
Still, they managed. They passed the baby around from hand to hand, humming several different generations of lullabies. Once they figured out how to burp him, they took turns getting the vomit out of each other's long coats.
Changing diapers was usually a two-or-three man job, but to their great pride they never gave Anthony so much as a scratch. They washed out old cloths for blankets and diapers, and gave Anthony a bath whenever the hot water was running. If the coast was clear they'd take him into sunny alleyways for a few minutes, kept him from going pale.
Food was a bit of an issue. Sherman wanted to give the kid candy and was disappointed when the others said no. Honey was brought up, but somebody's mama had once said it wasn't good for babies, so it was out. Blood probably wasn't sanitary, even if they'd had enough of it lying around.
They ended up going to a store, sending in guys through the bathroom mirror (no summonings, but the rules had been fucked over just enough thanks to the Helen situation) to collect baby formula, along with spare diapers. Sneaking around was a bit awkward, but they managed, and the coats were good for hiding stuff before they got back into the bathroom.
They couldn't pay, but Sherman was able to replenish the store's stocks with the seemingly endless supply of candy in his pockets, which made him feel better. He cheered up enough to start doing his surprisingly good shadow puppet shows for the kid, which would keep them both entertained for hours.
Anthony stayed alive. Even grew a little, maybe, although that was a topic of debate. His eyes were bright and he liked being tickled and they all became fond of the pipsqueak, even if he had the vocal cords of a foghorn and shit an ungodly amount.
Sometimes one of them would sit with the baby on his lap and tell Anthony about his life. Little stories or jokes, lessons about being a man in this big cruel world of theirs. They tried to remember the softer parts of their lives, the special moments they hadn't thought about in oh so long. They stroked his temple and told him that he would have special moments, too.
Daniel (also known as Queen Bee, King Bee, the OG, Dan the Man, or Dan with the Plan, although never to his face) never talked to the kid when he held him. He just sat and looked, his gaze silent and still.
But he did sing to Anthony sometimes, old lullabies in different languages and dialects that sounded so strange in his deep voice. His gaze was always distant when he sang, peering off over Anthony's head as if he could see something none of them could.
They were all worried about Daniel, to be honest. He'd been spending too much time out of the safe, sleepy darkness where the Hive lived, where years had once passed like heartbeats (and would again, once whatever happened with the kid happened, and they all knew something had to).
Being out wasn't safe, they reminded him. It made you forget who you are. It screwed up your need to be remembered, spiced it with blood and rage and relentless need for pain, anyone's pain. You were left with ugly gaps in your memory, marks of dark deeds you couldn't bring yourself to recall.
Daniel didn't listen. He was fixated, driven by his longing for the woman who'd called him awake. She can't be one of us, they'd told him. She'll be a ghost, maybe, a legend, but she'll never be part of the Hive. There are only so many rules you can break.
But Daniel didn't listen. Driven by hope, maybe? Boredom. They didn't know, and they couldn't do anything about it. The Hive could not survive an internal conflict, and besides, tease though they may, Daniel really was the OG. None of this would be without him. They respected him, they trusted him, of course they did.
So they looked after the little boy he'd brought home, and they tried to give Anthony their good memories because he was too young for any of the bad ones. They told each other, and Daniel himself, that they knew everything would be okay.
After all, hadn't the worst already come? They'd each faced nightmares and...well, they hadn't survived, not exactly, but they'd endured. The people had faith in them, so they had to have faith in the people. They had faith in Daniel, and in their little Anthony.
The Hive buzzed and buzzed around its squally little treasure, wrapping him in their coats and soothing him with their non-metal hands. They told Anthony that there were brighter tomorrows ahead, somewhere, and he looked as if he believed them.